Wednesday 20 June 2018

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Sebastian Coe calls allegations on IAAF's record on doping as 'a declaration of war'

Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe has launched a furious defence of international athletics' record in dealing with doping but has admitted some countries are causing a problem to the sport.

Coe, who is running for the presidency of the IAAF later this month, said there was widespread anger in the sport at claims by German broadcaster ARD and the Sunday Times that athletics had turned a blind eye to hundreds of suspicious blood tests.

The double Olympic 1,500m champion insisted the IAAF had led the way on tackling doping and had accepted the embarrassment of banning some of the top athletes from the sport. A lengthy and detailed response by the IAAF labelled the allegations "sensationalist and confusing''.

The Sunday Times has issued a statement standing by its story and calling the IAAF response "disingenuous". It said it had gained access to a database containing more than 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes and that more than 800 athletes - and a third of all medallists in endurance events at recent Olympics and World Championships - had suspicious blood test results which were not followed up by the IAAF.

Asked about his statement that the report was a "declaration of war", Coe told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "I don't think anybody should underestimate the anger that is felt in our sport. We have led the way on this.

"To suggest that in some way we sit on our hands at best, and at worst are complicit in a cover-up, is not borne out by anything we have done in the last 15 years. As a sport we have led the way on out-of-competition testing, on accredited laboratories, we were the first sport to have arbitration panels.

"Yes, we have countries out there that are causing a problem and an inordinate amount of difficulty across our sport but to say we are not investigating or turning a blind eye to this could not be further from the truth."

Asked if that included Russia, which has had a number of high-profile drugs cheats banned, Coe said: "Well that is not the only country which has caused issues in the past."

He added: "We introduced blood passports in 2009 because we wanted to elevate the science around weeding out the cheats. It is that profile that has chased some of the highest profile athletes out of the sport.

"If (the IAAF experts) deem that profile necessary to take someone out of the sport we will do so. This has not been easy for us this has caused us intense embarrassment but we would rather have short-term embarrassment and protect the clean athletes. That's why our sport is so angry at the moment."

The Sunday Times statement questioned whether the IAAF was committed to tackling doping.

It said: "It is disingenuous of the IAAF to spend just two days conducting what it describes as a "thorough" investigation into the serious issues we raised and then to attempt to dismiss the story as sensationalist.

"The IAAF bases its rejection of the story on the fact that the data does not "prove doping". That is not the point. Blood doping can be hard to prove but suspicious blood values are a strong indicator of it, and the IAAF had data that showed how widespread and outlandish some of the values have been. Many were extreme to the point of being irrefutable and the IAAF has accepted this because it does now censure athletes on their blood scores, and our experts precisely followed their current procedure.

"The IAAF, by its own admission, has been aware of the extent of the problem for several years, and yet only employs 10 people to oversee a testing regime covering thousands of athletes across more than 200 countries.

"Its refusal to accept any criticism raises serious questions as to whether the IAAF is truly committed to its primary duty of policing its sport and protecting clean athletes."

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